So you’ve finally manned up, bought her a ring, popped the question, and now you are going to actually PLAN the wedding. Yes, it’s time to step up your game. Show your fiancée that you are more than man enough to step up and help her plan the wedding. But what’s next? How do you plan the biggest day of your life? And just exactly how much money will it cost? Well, it turns out a lot of it has to do where you live. According to CNN, if you  decide to get married at cities where cost of living is significant higher, such as Manhattan, the average wedding budget is $76,687; while a wedding in Alaska came in at a cool (pun intended) $15,504 as the average budget.

Based on average wedding spending in 2012, these are the areas around the US where couples spent the most on their weddings.

  1. New York City (Manhattan): $76,687
  2. Chicago, IL: $49,810
  3. New York Metro (Long Island, Hudson Valley and NYC Outer Boroughs): $49,002, $46,300, $39,602
  4. Northern/Central New Jersey and Southern New Jersey: $48,496, $35,375
  5. Rhode Island: $47,399
  6. Santa Barbara/Ventura, CA: $42,319
  7. Boston, MA: $39,239
  8. Philadelphia, PA: $38,369
  9. Connecticut: $38,009
  10. San Francisco, CA: $35,344
  11. Los Angeles, CA: $35,308
  12. San Diego and Orange County/Inland Empire, CA: $34,136, $33,848
  13. Baltimore, MD: $33,366
  14. Washington, DC/Northern Virginia/suburban Maryland: $33,118
  15. Houston, TX: $31,978
  16. Southern Florida (Miami, Fort Lauderdale and surrounding areas): $31,288
  17. Savannah, GA: $30,618*
  18. Sacramento/Reno/Tahoe: $30,458*
  19. Hawaii: $29,636
  20. Illinois: $29,489*

*New to Top 20 List in 2012

US median income comes in right around $50,000 for the last few years, so you can see a wedding will take a good chunk of change out of your earned income! So what do you do? Don’t worry, Wedding Bros is here to guide you on the right path.

In order to establish a realistic budget, you will have to establish a realistic guest count right off the bat. Most venues are built to accommodate a certain amount of guests. Depending on the guest count you have, that will determine which venue can actually accommodate you and 500 of your closest friends. And as we know, the more mouths to feed, the more the costs associated with the wedding. Think about it, if you had 100 guests, at 10 guests a table. You will only need 10 center pieces, 100 chair covers, etc.. But multiply that number by 5. Not only you have to feed 500 guests now, there will be 50 table center pieces, 500 chair covers, 500 favors, etc..

photo by Jeremy Chou Photography

Here are the FIVE things you will need to consider before setting a realistic budget;

  • How many people you are going to invite
  • The date.
  • Deciding on the venue.
  • Prioritize what’s more important to you and your fiancée.
  • Setting the final number and stick to it

There are many different ways to save costs while not sacrificing the quality of your wedding (which we will discuss in another article). But to establish a baseline for your wedding budget, you will need to figure out how many mouths you are going to have to feed….and how many empty glasses/mugs you are going to have to fill up (you ARE doing an open bar for your bros, right??).

1. How many people you are going to invite

The aunt and uncle you haven’t seen since you were still wearing diapers; the old co-worker you worked together briefly for 3 months 2 years ago. You know, those kind of guests that you think you should invite, but don’t necessary have the budget for?  Separate your potential guests into three categories.

  • The “must group.” immediate family, close friends, uncles & aunts that you actually KNOW.
  • The ‘maybe group.” Extended family, 2nd or 3rd cousins, friends you haven’t seen regularly for the last 12 months.
  • The “If I have extra cash” group. co-workers from 2 or 3 years ago, college friends you haven’t seen in 10 years.

2. The date

If you are like me,  this will be just one more day your future spouse will drill you on, so choose wisely. Pick an easy date to remember; her birthday, dates that are easy to remember (such as December 13th, 2014,  12/13/14).  Many venues offer discounts for weddings that take place on off peak days. Saturday dinner would cost you significantly more than a Sunday afternoon wedding, for example.

3. Deciding on the venue

Your guest count will dictate which venue you can use. But beyond that, the costs for venue could vary wildly. You might get discount for being off peak season, or off peak day (Saturday).  Consult the venue and make sure they have your date available first. Also, some venues are all inclusive where they provide catering, table/chair linen setup, etc.. Always make sure you are comparing apples to apples when doing venue shopping.  Consider the season when you will be getting married as well. If you are getting married in December, don’t select an outdoor venue with no alternative plan if it starts raining. And don’t pick an outdoor venue during Summer, all your buddies who will be wearing full suits under the blazing sun will want to beat you senseless.

3. Prioritize what’s more important to you and your fiancée.

Are you a foodie? Then maybe having a perfectly seasoned & cooked filet mignon for your guests is on the top of the list. Are you a hopeless romantic (we don’t judge) and an awesome photographer is your number one concern? All this will help you guide your budget. Remember, wedding budget is about prioritizing. Figure out what’s most important to you and your  fiancée. Establish the importance of each item, and decide what are ‘must have’s” and what are bonus items.  Here’s the break down by The Wedding Chanel about what couples spent money on;

2011 2012 Chg. %
Average Wedding Cost $25,631 $25,656 <1%
Attire & Accessories Dress Accessories $148 $149 0.7%
Headpiece and/or Veil $107 $108 0.9%
Tuxedo/suit/other Accessories $99 $99 0.0%
Tuxedo/suit/other Rent/purchase $200 $200 0.0%
Wedding Dress/es $1,166 $1,187 1.8%
Beauty & Spa Hair Service $66 $66 0.0%
Makeup Service $52 $52 0.0%
Manicure & Pedicure $43 $43 0.0%
Entertainment DJ $699 $699 0.0%
Live Band $1,542 $1,539 -0.2%
Musician/s, Soloist, or Ensemble $538 $537 -0.2%
Flowers & Decorations Boutonnieres, Corsages $123 $123 0.0%
Bridal Bouquet $132 $132 0.0%
Bridesmaid Bouquets $161 $162 0.6%
Ceremony Decorations $247 $247 0.0%
Ceremony Flower Arrangements $277 $276 -0.4%
Flower Girl Flowers $79 $78 -1.3%
Flower Petals $84 $84 0.0%
Reception Decorations $294 $294 0.0%
Reception Flower Arrangements $310 $309 -0.3%
Reception Table Centerpieces $323 $322 -0.3%
Gifts & Favors Gift/s for Attendants $100 $100 0.0%
Gift/s for Parents $103 $103 0.0%
Tips (for all services) $362 $361 -0.3%
Wedding Favors $206 $206 0.0%
Invitations Ceremony Programs $99 $99 0.0%
Engagement Announcements $96 $96 0.0%
Guest Book $55 $55 0.0%
Invitations & Reply Cards $231 $230 -0.4%
Postage $100 $100 0.0%
Reception Menus $104 $103 -1.0%
Save the Date Cards $105 $105 0.0%
Table Name and Escort/place Cards $71 $70 -1.4%
Thank You Cards $84 $84 0.0%
Jewelry Engagement Ring $3,231 $3,239 0.2%
Wedding Bands $1,179 $1,186 0.6%
Photography & Video Digital or Photo cd/dvd $335 $333 -0.6%
Engagement Session $422 $426 0.9%
Prints and/or Enlargements $230 $230 0.0%
Traditional Leather Bound Album $476 $473 -0.6%
Wedding Photographer $1,668 $1,664 -0.2%
Wedding Videographer $1,054 $1,052 -0.2%
Planner/Consultant A La Carte Services $987 $978 -0.9%
Day of Coordinator $857 $851 -0.7%
For Getting Started $844 $838 -0.7%
Full Service $3,482 $3,448 -1.0%
Month of Direction $1,232 $1,219 -1.1%
Transportation Limo Rental $472 $471 -0.2%
Other Transportation $469 $468 -0.2%
Venue, Catering & Rentals Ceremony Accessories $202 $201 -0.5%
Ceremony Location $1,179 $1,194 1.3%
Ceremony Officiator $196 $196 0.0%
Hotel Room for After Reception $301 $300 -0.3%
Reception Accessories $196 $195 -0.5%
Reception Bar Service $2,463 $2,456 -0.3%
Reception Food Service $4,772 $4,757 -0.3%
Reception Location $3,228 $3,226 -0.1%
Reception Rentals $1,708 $1,704 -0.2%
Rehearsal Dinner $548 $548 0.0%
Wedding Cake/dessert $423 $421 -0.5%

4. Setting the final number and stick to it.

Nobody wants to go into debt planning a wedding. So give yourself plenty of time to pay  it off. Don’t plan a wedding that’s 3 months away, unless, you know.  Give yourself 12 to 15 months of time to pay off the necessary vendors in affordable progress payments. Once that number is set, STICK TO IT. You might find yourself having to shift money around within the budget to afford a particular vendor you really like. But take away the amount from another category that might be lower on your priority list.  That way you will make sure you will have enough funds to spend on what’s most important to you!

We would love to hear what you did to save some extra money on the wedding day! Leave a comment below and tell us how you were able to save money!

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